Book #10: Newton's Wake

Newton's Wake is the second offering I read from IO9's 20 Science Fiction Books That Will Change Your Life, following the very good Glasshouse by Charles Stross. It was a bit more of an unknown quantity for me: Stross was a writer I had come to enjoy from his bureaucratic Lovecraft adventures in The Atrocity Archives, as well as good word of mouth from other writers like John Scalzi and Neil Gaiman. MacLeod's mention on the I09 list was my first exposure to him and, unfortunately, based on Newton's Wake it may be my last.

At its core Newton's Wake is about the discovery of a inhabited planet of human refugees from something that has come to be known as the Hard Rapture - the artificial intelligences of Earth skyrocketed past their human progenitors and have left the planet. Most people stayed behind in the aftermath of the Rapture and made their luck and fortunes, dividing up into numerous clans. A small group, however, took off for the stars with a repository of thousands of backed-up souls, never to be heard from again. So when this planet is discovered holding the descendants of the space craft that left, it's news to the rest of the galaxy. So a mad dash is made by the main factions of the galaxy to "claim" the planet and the weird, alien artifacts that line the landscapes. Little does anyone know that the artifacts aren't what they seem, and they begin to build themselves into war machines with the express purpose of...uh, wait...I remember...

And that's the problem. There's so much information coming at you, and so many ideas that are creeping into the sides of the events that nothing ever really gets fleshed out into a coherent story. You can get the basic gist of events from Wikipedia, who manage to sum it up nicer than I ever could, although they don't even begin to get into all the additional storylines and ideas covered in the novel. MacLeod tries to paint a intriguing pictures of the main protagonist, Lucinda Carlyle, but at her heart she's basically a gangster working for her clan who "owns" something called the Skein - a series of wormholes that allows transportation between planets - so her motivations never really seem all that clear. MacLeod, Scottish, also tries to keep up the Scottish dialect for his main characters, but its application is spotty at best, and took away from being absorbed into the conversation.

I just went back and re-read I09's caption for Newton's Wake. It reads a lot more exciting that the novel, sadly, turned out to be. I still have 3 more novels from the list waiting to be read, and to be fair, there are a couple of incredible novels listed. Time will tell.

*If anyone else has read Newton's Wake and has a different opinion of it, I'd love to hear it - thanks!